Reading Week Three

Nelson, Theodor Holm. Literary Machines 91.1: The Report On, and Of, Project Xanadu Concerning Word Processing, Electronic Publishing, Hypertext, Thinkertoys, Tomorrow’s Intellectual Revolution, And Certain Other Topics Including Knowledge, Education and Freedom. Sausalito: Mindful Press, 1992. Print.

I found the reading for this week really tough to understand, and I’m not sure that was the point…

I understand that to a point, Nelson wants to communicate a need for connectivity between information through technology (expressed through hypertext), however the outdated-ness of his writing caused me to struggle to relate to how the world was when he wrote this piece, and what this need applied to. When I say outdated, I don’t mean in the sense of the ideas he presents (at least at a basic level), but more what these ideas stemmed from and applied to.

His predictions about the need for a connected world and a better system of storing and sharing information through computers was no doubt a huge contributing factor to the systems we currently have now, and the presence of network literacy. However, some of his ideas of what the future would be like are somewhat unrealistic (or at least, they are currently – his predictions reached for 2020, so we still have six years to realise these ideas!). For example, he believed that the world would probably be in some kind of chaos. He believed that electronic publishing would completely take over paper publishing, and that the cost of publishing materialistically would be too much. He believed that offices would become paperless, and he was unsure of the future of things such as schools and libraries.

This said, he did have a point when talking about connectivity and technology. I found it ironic that I read this part of his book on a computer screen, just as he speculated would happen to print media (even if reading from a screen has not eliminated paperback books completely). I think, rather than his predictions being false, he underestimated the power of tradition and nostalgia. No matter how practical it becomes to read and connect electronically, the elimination of books would not be acceptable, just as the elimination of CDs, DVDs, records and more would cause an uproar. Society calls for more practical methods of sharing and attaining information, and whilst technology can and does continue provide this, people are not automatically going to adjust, as society also calls for the comforts of the past, and the security that these more tangible ‘technologies’ can provide.


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